Moving to Rochester

    Mr. and Mrs. Fox decided, with the influence of the clergy, that it would be best if the girls move to Rochester with their sister, Leah Fish**.  This was probably to prevent the spirits from making contact with the girls.  Unfortunately moving to Rochester did not stop the spirits from contacting the girls.  The occurrences of the rappings became more frequent.

    It was customary to have the citizens gather at Leah's house to hear the revelations of Margaret's "rapping telegraph" (McHargue 34).  Many people came to hear the "rapping telegraph," and it did not take Leah long to realize that she could profit from Margaret's gift.  Leah had decided to arrange an exhibit of Margaret's talent in Corinthian Hall.  To see the wonders of Margaret that most had seen for free, now cost money.  Admission to the meeting was a dollar.  Many critics went hoping to see a fraud, but they were disappointed.  No one could explain the mysterious rappings.  Even the committee that was formed by leading citizens could not explain the rappings.  The citizens kept making committees to make sense out of the rappings.  One account said that one of the committees that were appointed to study the girls saw a heavy dinning table rose high above their heads.  The skeptics said the table had hollow legs with batteries inside of them, but no one was for sure what the cause was.  During the last meeting in Corinthian Hall, the third committee could not explain what was making the rapping sounds.  The audience became infuriated, and Margaret and Leah had to be escorted home.

    The winter of 1850, the girls had gone to Buffalo to give an exhibition to three doctors at the university.  The doctors concluded that the knee joints made the sounds.  Leah was appalled and contested the doctors' accusations.  Leah made a personal interview that consisted of different experiments.  "The girls were placed close together with their heels resting on cushions and their legs stretched out.  Their toes were raised and their feet were separated from each other.  Half an hour passed and there were no raps.  When the girls resumed their usual position, with their feet resting on the floor, the knockings were clearly heard.  In the second experiment their knees were firmly grasped so that any lateral movement of the bones would be perceptible to the touch.  This was repeated for an hour and there was dead silence, but as the pressure was released the rappings came faintly, then with strength when the doctors let go altogether" (Ross 91).

    Despite the confounding facts that the doctors had found spiritualism flourished, as did the careers of Kate and Margaret as mediums.

**Later her name changed to Leah Underhill.

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Page created by Ashley Fields

Religion In America (History 338)

Georgetown College


Last updated: 3-22-01